Despite creating Instagram's favorite kitchenware brand, she isn’t a fan of having too many pots and pans. “Can I just have one or two that do it all?” she asks.
For 10 years, I cooked meals for myself in an exceptionally small New York kitchen. My oven was used to store extra pots; a rarely used back burner was home to an often used stainless steel pot. With little storage space, aesthetics simply weren’t a priority.
That is, until I saw the eye-catching Always Pan from Our Place, a kitchenware company co-founded by Shiza Shahid, her husband Amir Tehrani, and Zac Rosner. After spotting the pan on my Instagram feed last year, it made me re-think how I view kitchenware…and privilege.
“I would walk into a cookware store, a kitchen, or a store, and they were all selling 16-piece cookware sets; these very professionalized tools, very expensive, bulky for very specific purposes,” Shahid says. “A saucier is literally a pan just to make sauces. I just want to make a dosa and some kitchari. Do I really need a saucier? Can I just have one or two pans that do it all?”
Growing up in Islamabad, Pakistan, “the kitchen” couldn’t have been further from the master plan Shahid’s mother had in mind for her daughters. “My mother never wanted me to cook. She had spent a lot of her life cooking, not by choice, because she was born into a fairly patriarchal family. So for her, she wanted my sister and I to have a choice and not be held back by householding,” the founder says.
That upbringing led to Shahid’s involvement in a number of human rights efforts while she was still young. Four years before the attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban in 2012, the young crusader and future Nobel laureate was a mentee of a then-teenage Shahid.
Since then, she’s carved out a mission-driven career. For years the now cookware connoisseur has made a name for herself as an entrepreneur and women’s rights advocate. She’s also the co-founder of the Malala Fund, which helps girls around the world get access to education.
In 2019, Shahid and her two co-founders launched the direct-to-consumer kitchenware company, Our Place, with an aim to address the lack of cookware options for multiethnic American kitchens and to turn our perceptions of standard cookware on its head. Ahead the founder discusses food, career, and how the pan that once had a 30,000-person waitlist came to be.
Glamour: How do you start the day?
Shiza Shahid: I want to be one of those people who are like, “I meditate, I gratitude journal!” But I honestly wake up, check emails, and have my yerba mate tea—my dose of caffeine that I need right away in the morning.
What four staples are always in your pantry?
Diaspora Co. Turmeric, Brightland Olive Oil, Pakistani pink Himalayan salt, and basil seeds—also called tukh malanga.
Why do you think you’ve been so successful?
I think that I have made a practice of doing my best to show up. At a young age, I got the opportunity to volunteer and make a difference. When you're young and you can show up and give something to someone and see that it helped them, it stays with you. I've also learned that when you show up, you have no idea what will come of it.
What’s your all-time favorite food?
Roti, every day all day.
What was the motivation behind your pivot into the cookware space?
There is a lot of erasure and co-option in the culinary world. Especially when it comes to a lot of the cooking and farming techniques and traditions that were owned, invented, and developed by communities of color. We're never given that credit.
You have $20 to spend at the farmers’ market. What do you buy?
Fruit—berries, citrus, whatever is in season.
What’s your go-to weeknight meal?
Something quick and easy whipped up in my Always Pan: Kitchari, a desi omelet, or dumplings steamed in our Spruce Steamer.
Our Place Always Pan
Favorite midday snack?
I love Popped lotus seeds, popcorn, and haldi doodh, which is a turmeric latte.
What do you listen to while cooking?
I listen to Nusrat Fateh Ali, known for his qawwaliis, which is South Asian spiritual music. I also listen to, the Still Processing podcast and a good audiobook. I’m currently listening to From Scratch by Tembi Locke.
How have you dealt with rejection in your career?
We were rejected probably over 300 times, just for a business loan for Our Place in terms of investors. I’ve seen other entrepreneurs walk in and get that check a lot easier. Today we're in a different position and we've built out a business that has proven people wrong in every way.
The thing about rejection that you have to remember is if you're not asking that’s also a form of rejection too. Every time that you didn’t go to that investor or to that, potential employer and say, “Hey, I would like a job” or “I would like you to invest in my business,” or “I would like you to partner with me on this collection”—every time you didn't ask is also a no. I think we tend to underemphasize all the times we didn't go and put ourselves out there and overemphasize the times we went and gone and heard a no.
This story originally appeared on: Glamour - Author:Condé Nast